This week TWOOBS turned 7, which means we’ve been out here doing this shoe selling thing for a full 7 years. They say it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at something. And seeing as we know that there are 525,600 minutes in a year (thanks, Rent!), which divided by 7 carry the 4 add the 52 equals we totally failed maths at school*, we’re pretty sure that 7 years running this business makes us kinda like experts or something. Or at the very least it makes us seriously good at talking our way into a fashion show we absolutely weren’t invited to. Either way, we’re here to share some funny, shocking, overly truthful, and maybe even a little bit useful things we’ve learned over the last 7 years of running TWOOBS.
1. Turns out fake it till you make it actually works.
If you can name it, we have faked it. We’re talking having a customer service team (our first customer service gal Jazz Marks was actually just, gulp, co-founder Jess), being invited to fashion week (we used to just rock up outside, take pics, and then run away), having a write up on Buzzfeed (we once figured out you could just write your own blog post and it looked the same as an article), and being a cult footwear label (holy shit can’t believe we’re telling you this but we used to just write it in our bio everywhere until one day it came true). You can call it manifesting or you can call it telling little fibs, and while as a slightly bigger brand now being truthful is one of our biggest values, we’re not here to judge our former selves, we’re just here to bring you the lessons.
2. Haters are gonna hate, but we just love love love.
Forgive us for the Teresa Guidice reference (Real Housewives fans we see you. You are seen, and you are safe here). When you pour your blood and sweat and literal soul into birthing this beautiful brand into the world, only to be met with actual strangers writing “these are fugly” on your posts, it can be a little disheartening to say the least. But what we’ve found is that those haters just have the loudest voices, and as it turns out they’re actually providing you with valuable data for showing you how many people are loving your brand. So if for every 1000 people who love you there’s about 1 hater yelling at you, as the haters start to grow, what you begin to realise is that you’re actually kind of, well, popular. And after a while, the hate starts to sound a little like cheering. Take a bow, baby, they love ya.
3. There is such a thing as having too much dessert in your office.
We learned this one the hard way. Cue all the stomach aches.
4. Collaborating with brands who are bigger than you will blow you up.
When we were about a year into TWOOBS, we collaborated with a major brand who we won’t name here for privacy reasons that… nah lol just kidding you know we don’t keep things from you it was Gorman. Over a couple of years we had built a really great relationship with Gorman and its founder and the marketing team through our former lives as How Two Live (if you’re not sure what that is, Google it and enjoy!). We went to their events and did free posts for them and all your other regular relationship building stuff.
The outcome? When we were just in our early stages as a business and trying to beg people to try our shoes, we launched two TWOOBS styles in Gorman’s prints. It was great for Gorman because their price points were much higher than ours so they got to offer their customers a more affordable shoe, and it was great for us because, well, did you hear the part that as a tiny brand we collaborated with Gorman?! When we say it blew up, it literally sold out in a couple of hours. Overnight we had 1000s of people wearing and loving TWOOBS, and they were keen to come back for more. Clever cookies we were.
5. No, no, no, no! (No, no, no!) Stick to the stuff you know.
Number 5’s title is for all our millennials out there and Gen Z bestie if you’re reading this and missed the reference please do yourself a favour and go live out Zac Efron’s hot days in High School Musical. Now that we have the important stuff aside, this lesson is actually probably our biggest key to success. We have been distracted by every shiny object there is. Podcasts, fashion weeks, events, workshops, collaborations, joint giveaways, overseas trips, free meals for posts (cringes at self), PR showings, tradeshows, big retailers, we could go on... and while it might have looked good from the outside, nothing has made us more successful than just actually focusing on the one thing: vegan & environmentally-minded shoes.
As a team we now say no to doing about 98% of things that we come up with or people reach out to us about, and it means we have way more time on our hands (hello 4 day work week), and we’re really damn good at the thing we are doing, which is making and selling damn great shoes. Pure and simple. If you can embody this lesson from the get-go, you have a winner on your hands (and side bar can we invest?).
6. Shoes come in boxes for a reason.
When you set out to create a business, people will often tell you to have a USP, a Unique Selling Point. Turns out they’re referring to what you’re actually selling, rather than the packaging your product comes in (who knew?!). We decided it would be way more fun to sell our shoes in tubes than in boxes (yes that IS why we called it TWOOBS shhhh). Picture trying to neatly stack a bunch of M&M tubes. Now picture those M&M tubes scattered all over the floor, and you have a pretty accurate picture of our stockroom in the early days. Lesson learned, and now not only do our shoes come in boxes, we got rid of wasteful satchels and just ship ‘em that way! Double win.
7. People who’ve done it before you know more than you (which is sometimes worth listening to and sometimes not).
We’ve had mentors give us some pretty great advice in our time. Like the one who told us we should probably learn how to run our finances (turns out this is definitely something you should do if you want to run a good business). We’ve also had mentors give us some advice that turned out not to be right at all. Like the one who told us they were sure we’d build something successful together but it was absolutely not going to be this shoe business *resists urge to say HA!*.
What we’ve learned is that if people have done it before you, then there’s a lot of time you can save in learning from their mistakes. And at the same time, often people who’ve been doing something for a really long time can get caught in only seeing things the way they’ve always been done. And we won’t be breaking any glass ceilings trying to kick it with grandpa’s slippers on now will we? So when it comes to advice, we say be open to not having all the answers and learning from others, but always come back to yourself and check in with what feels right for you and your vision… and yup, that even includes all the advice we’ve given you in this post!
Jess and Stef x
If you liked our lessons, you’ll probably love our shoes even more. Check out the fruit of this 7 year journey we’ve gone on aka our shoe babies over here.
*Full transparency, we didn’t fail maths. We were actually really, really good at it.
Wondering what this here blog post is all about? It will give you some pretty great business advice (if we do say so ourselves) and teach you about being an entrepreneur, it’ll make you laugh, it hopefully won’t make you cry, and it’ll also give you insights into what it’s like running a successful and ethical shoe brand.